Assessing Ja Morant and Dylan Windler in the OVC Championship Game

March 9, 2019

by Alan Lu

I took the opportunity to watch Ja Morant and Murray State play against Dylan Windler and Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game that was played on March 9th.  The contest between two teams was off to a slow start, as both players initially struggled to get going early on.  Dylan Windler ended up playing fairly well, as he showed off a variety of skills, while Ja Morant dominated in the second half to get Murray State the win and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Here are my thoughts on how both of the prospects fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Murray State’s sophomore point guard, Ja Morant played very well in his team’s win over Belmont.  He showed off terrific athletic ability, very good scoring skills, and he also made some solid defensive plays when he was on the court.  He did struggle with his jump shot and with some turnovers, and there were times where he had trouble getting other teammates involved, but overall, he had a solid game to help get his team the victory.

Morant did a terrific job of scoring on speedy, strong drives to the basket.  He has excellent speed and athleticism, and he can really explode to the hoop to get many scores at the rim.  He can use dribble moves to get past his man, and he also can regularly split double teams off the dribble.  He would often drive past hoards of defenders to score quickly at the rim, and Morant also threw down a scintillating, high-flying dunk in this game.  Every once in a while he would miss due to going too fast and to forcing up some tough shots, but Morant can also score in traffic, and he would tend to score on speedy, acrobatic layups.

He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays. Morant would get scores on fast breaks, and he also drew free throws off of a strong put back.  He also managed to score on a turnaround jumper in the post after initially getting the ball on a curl cut.  But sometimes he can rush his shots, which can lead to misses.  He did make a spot-up three in transition, but he had trouble knocking down jump shots outside of the paint area, as he especially had a hard time trying to make pull-up jumpers against Belmont.  On the other hand, Morant did a good job of drawing free throws, and he also made all of them when he was at the foul line.

However, Morant was quite turnover prone in this game.  For the positives, sometimes he would find the open man to set up scoring chances for his teammates, and he also can kick the ball out to shooters off the dribble.  He also threw a nice behind the back pass to a teammate once.  On the downside, he can tend to throw lazy passes, as a couple of them ended up getting intercepted by defenders, and he also had trouble protecting the basketball.  Sometimes, he would get the ball poked away by his opponents.  He also was called for a traveling violation as he shuffled his feet just as he nearly collided with a defender on a drive to the hoop.  Plus, he also did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  Morant would leap up and chase down balls to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he showed a good nose to get balls to help his team get rebounds.

He also played adequate defense.  Morant is an athletic, rangy defender that can get steals and blocks, and he can apply heavy ball pressure to make it difficult for his opponents to make plays on offense.  He was able to stay with his man to swat a shot off of a drive off the glass to a teammate due to possessing very good leaping skills, athleticism, and timing.  He also showed a strong ability to use the back-tap move to knock balls away to get steals, and he also ran in to tie up an opposing ball handler another time.  Morant also will contest threes to force misses, and he also fought through a screen to successfully challenge a shot off the dribble another time, but sometimes he would over-help in the paint, and there were several instances where he would not close out on shooters fast enough, which would lead his team to allow three-point baskets to the opposition.  Other times, he would be unfocused defensively, which can lead his team to allow other scores.  There was another play where he rotated to commit a reach-in foul on an opposing ball handler.

In general, Ja Morant had a very good showing in his team’s win over Belmont.  He scored 36 points, and he really excelled as a scorer and rebounder while he was able to make some solid defensive plays in this game.  He is a tremendous athlete that can score at will.  He also has a terrific first step off the dribble, and he has very good acceleration and leaping ability that allows him to regularly finish plays around the basket.  He will need to improve his jump shot and will need to learn how to play more under control, but even still, Morant is a tremendous prospect that will likely be a top 3 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Belmont’s senior forward, Dylan Windler had a fairly good game in his team’s loss to Murray State.  Though he struggled to consistently knock down jumpers, he excelled as a scorer off the dribble, off of hustle plays, and he also showed solid facilitation and rebounding skills.  He is a smart player that has a high basketball IQ, and he would consistently make solid plays to help keep his team in the contest.

Windler showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble in this game.  He can finish plays using either hand, and he was able to use a jab step and a spin move to score on one nifty drive to the hoop.  He has a surprisingly good first step to the basket, and he also was able to score on a couple of fast break drives, but sometimes he would miss tough shots in traffic.  He also showed a solid ability to score on hustle plays.  Windler was able to score on a tip-in after leaping up to get an offensive rebound, and he also scored around the hoop another time after finding himself open underneath the basket prior to getting the ball.

In this game though, Windler struggled to knock down jumpers.  Against Austin Peay, Windler showed that he can use off-ball motion and run off screens to make spot-up threes, and he also had very good range on his shot.  In this match against Murray State, Windler often struggled to make threes or mid-range jumpers, but he was able to make an open, spot-up three once off of a pick and pop play.

Also, he displayed good playmaking skills.  Windler is a patient player that has good court vision, and he can throw solid touch passes, as he showed a knack for throwing accurate interior passes as well as passes off the dribble to set up a wealth of scores for his teammates.  He also made a quick backdoor cut to the hoop and almost had an easy two points, but he bobbled the pass as it trickled off his hands and ended up out of bounds that time.  On a separate occurrence, he committed a charging foul on a drive, which led him to commit an offensive foul and a turnover.  Windler did show solid decision making skills, but sometimes he would try to rush his moves, which would lead to turnovers and misses.

He also rebounded the ball very well.  Windler would often leap up to get tough boards on both ends of the floor, and there were a couple of instances where he swoop in to save balls to his teammates to help his team get offensive rebounds.  He was a chairman of the boards in this game, but there was one play where he was called for an over the back foul when going for a defensive rebound once.  Windler played adequate defense.  He is a high-motor player that will hustle to make plays, and he was able to jump a pass to obtain a steal, which led his team to later score on a fast break.  He also successfully contested a three-point shot to force a miss.  But he did have one momentary lapse, as there was one play where he got beat on a cut to allow a score.

In summary, Dylan Windler is a smart, skilled forward that has solid offensive skills, and he also is a very good rebounder.  He is a savvy playmaker, as he can continually make strong passes off the dribble due to possessing strong court vision, and he can operate as a point forward in games.  He also has excelled as a shooter on the season, though he struggled with his three-point shot today.  While he doesn’t possess elite physical tools, Windler is an above average athlete that also has a very good motor, and he could likely end up being a solid role player at the next level.  Right now, Windler may project to be a second round prospect, and he could end up being a good find for an NBA team, as he could be a similar player to Sacramento Kings’ swingman, Bogdan Bogdanovic in the association.

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